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West Africa remains the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak.  By the start of December, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there could be as many as 10,000 new cases of Ebola per week in West Africa.  But the passage of infected people to other countries has led to a handful of new Ebola cases outside the region.

In the U.S., eight individuals had confirmed cases of Ebola by mid-October.  Of the eight, one person has died, three successfully recovered and four are currently being treated.  Two of the infected individuals caught the virus while residing in the U.S.; the others contracted Ebola before entering the country.  Over a hundred people are currently under observation in the Dallas area, and U.S. public health officials have stated the number of local cases may climb before they can contain the virus.

What is Ebola?
Ebola is an acute viral illness characterized by the sudden onset of fever, debilitating weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. People often confuse the illness' early symptoms with cold or flu symptoms.  The disease incubates in the infected person's body for a period of 21 days; victims become contagious once they present symptoms.  As it progresses, Ebola causes vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, impaired kidney and liver function and internal and external bleeding, particularly from the mouth, ears and eyes.

Transmission and Treatment
The virus was first transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads through the human population via contact with bodily fluids, including saliva, sweat, blood and vomit.  However, Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air or through contaminated food or water.  There is not vaccine for Ebola, although experts are currently testing two potential options.  The lack of a viable vaccine and the disease's high mortality rate (which the WHO is reporting is at 70%) have made this epidemic especially alarming.  Plasma from Ebola survivors is being given  to patients in the hopes that Ebola-resistant antibodies can be developed to stave off the virus.

How Can I Protect Myself?
Within the U.S., people with the highest risk of infection are medical workers.  So far all new cases of Ebola occurring within the U.S. have involved health workers.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while acknowledging it made errors in the initial treatment of U.S.-based patients, is enacting robust safety training and protocols for health care workers in order to prevent further spread of the disease.

Right now, the best way for nonmedical workers to avoid contracting Ebola is to refrain from unessential travel to affected countries.

(Information from Zywave-this content is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances.  It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter.  The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such.  In relation to any particular problem which them they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice.)
Posted 5:25 PM

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